The 2016 Sammy Awards – Part 1

SammyAwardeagleAfter an unavoidable…interruption…a year ago we are back and thrilled to present the 2016 Sammy Awards, a Manoverse tradition since 2010. The Sammys are, in a nutshell, a fun & introspective year in review presented as the world’s best imaginary awards show. I like to think of The Sammys as an eclectic remix of real awards shows…classier than anything MTV offers, not as pretentious as The Oscars & Grammys, and more engaging than the plethora of offerings (The SAGs, The Tonys, The ESPYs, The People’s Choice Awards, etc.) that no one watches. The pace is brisk because a show longer than two hours drags and loses the interest of the viewer. There are no acceptance speeches because most of the categories have far too many nominees to have in the audience and many might not consider it an honor to be nominated anyway. I’d like to think that Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu would take a shot at streaming the show. Their people should call my people.

 

Let us begin by welcoming the host for our 2016 show. He’s an award winning comedian & talk show host, and since 2010 sharveyhas breathed new life into legendary game show Family Feud. Please welcome Steve Harvey!!

 

schillingFollowing a brief yet hilarious introduction to the show by our host it is time for the first award presentation. Please welcome a three time World Series winning pitcher, six time MLB All Star, former ESPN baseball analyst, & everyone’s favorite politically incorrect keyboard warrior…Curt Schilling!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest Sports Story

 

Retirements Everywhere!!

One of the more poignant moments in sports is when a player, coach, or other associated personality decides to walk away after a long & memorable career, and in 2016 it seems like we said more than the usual fair share of goodbyes. I was never a big Kobe Bryant fan, but there is no denying that he had a significant impact on the modern NBA. After limping to the finish line the last couple of years on tired legs & surrounded by a very mediocre LA Lakers team, Kobe summoned some of his old magic one last time, scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz in his final game. Peyton Manning rode into the sunset the way everyone would like to. After a legendary & record breaking 18 year career he led the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl championship. Manning certainly wasn’t at his best in his final few seasons with the Broncos, but his place among the greatest quarterbacks of all time is secure. Vin Scully, Dick Enberg, & Verne Lundquist all plied their trade as announcers for many decades. Scully is best known as the voice of the LA Dodgers, but fortunately for us east coasters he also called many nationally televised games in both baseball & football. Enberg is best remembered as a play-by-play announcer for NBC, calling both NFL & MLB games. Lundquist isn’t completely retired, but will no longer be calling college football games. Thankfully we’ll still be able to hear him on golf broadcasts. Kevin Garnett & Tim Duncan both called it quits after the 2015-16 NBA season. Duncan won five championships in 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. In 1995 Garnett became the first player in two decades drafted directly from high school to the NBA, a practice the league would outlaw in 2006. He played for three different teams and won one championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. He had more individual than team success, winning a league MVP & being named to 15 All Star teams. David Ortiz is a mountain of a man that was the designated hitter & occasional first baseman for the Boston Red Sox for 13 years. He was a big part of the team that finally broke the infamous Curse of the Bambino and brought Boston their first World Series title in 86 years. Two more titles would follow. Big Papi had one of his best seasons in 2016, batting .315 and hitting 38 home runs. Unfortunately various leg & foot problems forced him into retirement. Though I haven’t watched NASCAR for a couple of years for reasons I’ll not rehash, Tony Stewart had become my favorite driver after the tragic demise of Dale Earnhardt. I always appreciated his forthright & decidedly un-PC manner. Smoke won three Cup titles & 49 races in over 600 starts in 18 years. I suppose he’ll still be around as a team owner, which is good for the sport.

 

Cleveland Wins NBA Title

I’m not the biggest NBA fan. I only pay attention when the playoffs roll around, have never had a favorite team, & haven’t cared all that much since Michael Jordan retired. However, the one thing that has drawn me in at all over the past several years is the closest thing we’ve had to Jordan…Lebron James. His departure from Cleveland to Miami and subsequent return has been well chronicled, and in 2016 all the hopes & dreams of every sports fan in Cleveland came to fruition as King James led his hometown Cavaliers to their first ever NBA title, the city’s first professional sports championship of any kind since 1964. It was an exciting rematch of the previous year’s championship series, with the Cavs coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to upend the defending champion Golden State Warriors in a thrilling Game 7.

 

Brady’s Court Battle

In 2016 golden boy QB Tom Brady finally lost his yearlong battle against DeflateGate and was forced to serve a four game suspension at the beginning of the NFL season. Of course he still may get the last laugh, as the New England Patriots finished with the best record in the league and enter the playoffs as a solid Super Bowl favorite.

 

Villanova Wins NCAA Title

The Villanova Wildcats won their first national championship since 1985, beating North Carolina on a buzzer beater in the title game. The Wildcats won 35 games and defeated four straight Top 10 opponents during March Madness.

 

Warriors Wins Record

The 2016 Golden State Warriors, led by point guard Stephen Curry & power forward Draymond Green, won 73 games during the regular season, breaking a record set by the Jordan/Pippen Bulls two decades earlier. They came into the season as the defending NBA champs and dominated the competition…until the finals, where they fell to Lebron James & his Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Cubs Win World Series

The Chicago Cubs have been the loveable losers of baseball for as long as I can remember. As with the Red Sox, the Cubs had been battling their own “curse”, the Curse of the Billy Goat, on which multiple heartbreaking postseason failures had been blamed since their last World Series title in 1908. All of that changed in 2011, when Theo Epstein, the wunderkind general manager that had helped Boston turn things around a decade ago, took the same job in Chicago. In 2016 his rebuilding plan blossomed and the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in a really fun seven game World Series.

 

Johnny Football

The long sad odyssey of Johnny Manziel finally reached its inevitable conclusion in 2016 when the former Heisman Trophy winner but failed NFL quarterback was cut loose by the Cleveland Browns. Aside from the fact that Manziel is a marginal NFL talent at best, off the field issues with drugs, legal problems, & just a generally selfish, arrogant, poor attitude torpedoed any chance he had at success. When the Browns don’t even want you that’s a huge warning sign.

 

Penguins Win Stanley Cup

I pay even less attention to hockey than I do the NBA & NASCAR, but if my Pens are involved when the playoffs roll around I will generally check it out. 2016 brought Pittsburgh its fourth Stanley Cup since 1990. They defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games, with the awesome Sidney Crosby being named the series MVP.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

The Chicago Cubs. It’s hard to beat a century old drought and an angst ridden fan base that has endured so many painful losses. I’m a Pirates fan, so I obviously cubscheer against the Cubs all season long, but I must admit this was a really cool story and I am glad for long suffering fans in The Windy City.

 

 

 

 

gavinTo present our next award, please welcome three all-time favorites who have one thing in common…they did guest spots on a certain television show backnicholson2 in the 60’s. First, he is best known as Captain Merrill Stubing on 80’s cheesefest The Love Boat. Please welcome Gavin MacLeod. Next, he has long been one of America’s crankiest yet most beloved comedians. He hung out with Sinatra back in the day, spent a good deal of time on Johnny Carson’s Tonight rickles2Show couch, and now he is here with us at The Sammy Awards. Please welcome Don Rickles. And finally, he is an Academy Award winning actor best known for creepy roles in The Shining, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Batman, & A Few Good Men. It is an honor to welcome Jack Nicholson.

 

This is a special award with only one nominee & winner.

 

 

The Fred Berry Memorial Award for Excellence in Syndication

 

The Andy Griffith Show

Even the best television shows are generally cancelled after 6-10 seasons, air in syndication for a few years, & then slip away into the ether, replaced in the hearts & tags2minds of viewers everywhere with the latest & greatest sitcom, soapy drama, or police procedural. Every once in awhile a program comes along that stays afloat in the sea of pop culture prominence for a bit longer, but eventually even those elite shows fade into just an occasionally recalled fond memory. The Andy Griffith Show is different. On any given day of the week I can do a little channel surfing and watch atleast a couple of TAGS episodes. Ponder that. This is a show that stopped airing original episodes nearly a half century ago, but its reruns are still broadcast in 2016 and beyond. Almost all of the cast has left this mortal coil, yet we still watch. I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that TAGS has entertained multiple generations and continues to delight people of all ages even today. Local TV stations have no shortage of syndicated programs to choose from when they need to fill a time slot, but they know that TAGS has retained its popularity and will get good ratings. There are many reasons for this, most of which I have mentioned somewhere in this forum at one time or another. It is the distinct pleasure of The Manofesto to give The Andy Griffith Show one more well deserved victory lap, and hopefully we’ll all still be enjoying it for many years to come.

 

 

 

susannah-lewisTo present our next award we originally contacted singer & emancipated butterfly Mariah Carey, but she declined the invitation and has gone into hiding in an undisclosed location for some unknown reason. We next contacted MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, but when she was told that the presentation would likely take longer than 48 seconds she was forced to say no. Therefore, we turn to well-regarded and very funny blogger, author, & social media personality Susannah Lewis. And the nominees are:

 

 

 

 

Least Satisfying Movie

The Do-Over

So it has come to this for Adam Sandler. After being one of the biggest movie stars in the world in the 90’s with hits like The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, & The Waterboy, he has hit the skids in the past decade, with some of the worst films ever produced (Jack & Jill, That’s My Boy, something about a Zohan). Now his movies aren’t even in theaters…they are being directly streamed into our homes. I didn’t know this until after I saw The Do-Over, but awhile back Sandler signed a four movie contract with Netflix. The first one was released last December when I was in the hospital which explains why I hadn’t heard of it. As for this second project in the deal, it has Sandler & David Spade as two old high school pals who are unhappy with their lives so they fake their own deaths. It’s an interesting premise, and I’ve got to give all involved credit for one thing…they didn’t mail it in. The story has more twists & turns than an Appalachian highway, with an odd mix of comedy, action, intrigue, & pathos. It’s not boring…it’s just not very good.

 

Dirty Grandpa

Robert DeNiro needs to fire his agent, manager, & anyone else that assists him in choosing projects. Seeing him in excrement like this makes me sad. Even Zac Efron can do better and he’s a tool.

 

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

I had low expectations going in because the 2014 original wasn’t good, yet somehow this sequel is actually even more tasteless & unremarkable. I didn’t laugh once. Two hours of my life I can never get back.

 

The Bronze

Fans of The Big Bang Theory get quite a shock seeing their sweet little Bernadette in this flick. Melissa Rauch stars as a former Olympic medalist still living on her fading notoriety in the small Ohio town in which she grew up. The young “lady” is mean-spirited, foulmouthed, & treats her adoring mailman father like dirt. She doesn’t have a job and relies on her fans & friends to buy her things. Oh, and she also steals money from mail she rifles thru in her Dad’s truck. Are you laughing yet?? When Hope (that’s her name…seriously) gets an opportunity to coach an up & coming gymnast also from her hometown she at first attempts to sabotage the young girl, but eventually changes course and guides her to the gold medal. I’m sure there are people out there that find this movie hysterically funny, but I’m not sure I’d want to know those people.

 

Bad Santa 2

If you enjoyed the 2003 original I suppose you’ll like this follow-up, which has Billy Bob Thornton putting the ol’ red suit back on & reprising his role as a misanthropic, drunken, foul mouthed thief who likes to score big during the holiday season. He reunites with his diminutive partner in crime and they team up with Santa’s profane & terminally ill mother to rob a Chicago children’s charity. I’m no prude, but I do believe I have some class and this kind of humor just doesn’t frost my cupcake. I didn’t particularly care for the first film and had no expectations that the sequel would alter my perspective. I was right. If vulgarity & F-bombs tickle your funny bone then, by all means, enjoy…it’s a free country. I will continue to aim higher.

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

Dirty Grandpa. I don’t know why I continue to subject myself to DeNiro. The Godfather Part II is way way way in the rearview mirror. Even the Meet the Parents facepalmmovies seem like a lifetime ago. In the past decade this alleged cinematic icon has made a string of forgettable and/or outright atrocious films. This might be the absolute worst of the bunch, and could compete for one of the vilest pieces of garbage to ever be on the big screen. Just retire Mr. DeNiro. Leave the memories alone.

 

 

 

This feels like an appropriate place to pause. Please stay tuned for Part 2!!

TAGS Episode Guide: Ranking (Not Quite) Every Episode of One of America’s Most Beloved TV Shows…Part 3

Welcome back. If you haven’t done so please go back and peruse Parts 1 and 2.

 

bestLooking back TAGS had an impressive lineup of guests & bit players that would go on to have nicholsonnotable careers. That list includes James Best (Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on the Dukes of Hazzard), comedian Don Rickles, Jerry Van Dyke (Coach), Gavin MacCleod (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Love Boat), Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie), Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard), Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk), legendary movie stars Jack Nicholson & George Kennedy, Jack Albertson (Chico & The Man), Morgan Brittany (Dallas), Richard Bull (Nels Oleson on Little House on the Prairie), William Christopher (Father Mulcahey on MASH), Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester on The Addams Family), Ellen Corby (The Waltons), Bob Denver (Gilligan’s Island, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis), Buddy Ebsen be(Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies), Jamie Farr (Klinger on MASH), Ann Morgan Guilbert (The mccNanny, Grumpier Old Men), Pat Hingle (Batman), Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island), Howard Hesseman (Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati), Larry Clovis (Hogan’s Heroes), Allan Melvin (Sam the Butcher on The Brady Bunch), actor/director Rob Reiner (Meathead on All in the Family), and Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly).

 

Now on with the countdown.

 

 

 

 

100   The New Housekeeper (S1E1)

Technically the concept for TAGS was introduced in a February 1960 episode of Make Room For Daddy, aka The Danny Thomas Show. However thishousekeeper is the first standalone episode of the show. The powers-that-be must’ve been on their game…the show premiered just 8 months after the pilot. We meet Sheriff Taylor and his son Opie as they are celebrating the wedding of their housekeeper Rose. Because Rose is moving out of town with her new husband Andy’s Aunt Bea comes back to Mayberry from Morgantown, WV (the real life hometown of Don Knotts) to take care of Andy & Opie. It is implied that Aunt Bea is from Mayberry but had spent a few years in West Virginia. Six year old Opie is very attached to Rose, who presumably took care of him since he was a baby, so he doesn’t quite warm up to Aunt Bea at first. However when Aunt Bea attempts to leave because she can see the boy is unhappy he begs her to stay. This is a great introduction to the core characters…Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea, & Barney…and it gets better from there.

 

 

 

99     The Rivals         (S3E28)

Opie has a crush on a classmate, but she just isn’t that into him. When Thelma Lou tries lift Opie’s spirits the boy starts crushing on her and Barney feels left out in the cold. Classic Barney, and great father/son stuff between Andy & Opie. A very sweet episode.

 

 

98     Aunt Bea’s Brief Encounter (S2E9)

Aunt Bea becomes enamored with Mr. Wheeler, an itinerant handyman who stops by to help her with some rosebushes. Upon finding out that the wheelerman lives in his truck Andy & Aunt Bea ask him to stay with them for a bit and do some work around the house, but he keeps weaseling out of doing any actual work. After a comment from the mailman about Mr. Wheeler’s soft hands Andy becomes suspicious and finds out the “handyman” is just a freeloader that takes advantage of kindhearted women like Aunt Bea. Andy manages to scare off the scoundrel and all is well.

 

 

97     Bringing Up Opie       (S1E32)

Concerned about negative influences on Opie’s behavior Aunt Bea talks Andy into restricting Opie’s visits to the jail. The boy quickly becomes bored in the afternoon hours after school and wanders off only to fall asleep in the back of a truck that drives off away from Mayberry. There are some heartwarming father/son moments between Andy & Opie, and that’s always a good thing.

 

 

96         Three’s a Crowd (S2E27)

Andy decides to court lovely county nurse Mary Simpson. However every time he is alone with her Barney shows up and obliviously interjects himself simpsoninto the situation. When Andy finally explains things to Barney (in a nicer way than anyone else in the world probably would) the overzealous deputy jumps to the conclusion that the sheriff is about to become engaged. Hilarity ensues. This is the second & final appearance of Nurse Mary. The actress is absolutely beautiful and it’s a shame she & the character disappeared without a trace just like a couple other ladies that Andy dated.

 

 

95     Divorce, Mountain Style    (S4E25)

Charlene Darling wanders down from the hills seeking to divorce her husband Dud. Of course with The Darlings nothing is ever simple or normal, so a barneyhorse1divorce in their world entails some sort of weird hillbilly ritual, which is really funny. In the midst of this craziness Charlene…who has been sweet on Andy since the moment she met him…decides she’s wants to marry the sheriff. Fortunately Andy & Barney find a way to “curse” the union and scare Charlene away. That curse involves Barney dressing in black and riding a horse at midnight…or something like that. It’s hysterically entertaining stuff. There’s no Opie or Aunt Bea in this episode, but that’s alright. Charlene is a real looker and might have been a good match for Andy, but that possibility was never seriously explored. Bob Denver portrays Dud, replacing the actor who’d played the character on two previous occasions. Denver had just spent four seasons playing beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and a few months later would begin a three year tour as the titular character on Gilligan’s Island.

 

 

94     Goodbye, Sheriff Taylor    (S5E10)

When Andy goes to Raleigh to interview for a detective job he makes Barney acting Sheriff. Barney deputizes Otis & Goober, and chaos quickly ensues. At the end of the day Barney realizes that “sheriffin’” is far different than “deputyin’”, and Andy decides to stay in Mayberry. Ironically at the end of the season it would be Barney moving to Raleigh to become a detective.

 

 

93     The Manicurist (S2E16)

A young & beautiful manicurist sets up a space in Floyd’s barber shop. The men of Mayberry are a little wary of her presence at first, but quickly warm edenup to her, upsetting their wives in the process. The manicurist is portrayed by Barbara Eden, who would begin her belly-baring gig on I Dream of Jeannie a few years later. This episode marks the final appearance of Mayor Pike, as the actor passed on before the show aired. It is also the last of a half dozen appearances by town hypochondriac Emma Watson.

 

 

92     One-Punch Opie (S3E14)

Opie figures out that the new kid in town is a menace who isn’t worth the trouble. When Opie stands up to him the bully runs off like a coward. The mixture of comedy from Barney and classic father/son stuff from Andy & Opie is the kind of balancing act that makes TAGS great.

 

 

91     Bailey’s Bad Boy (S2E15)

Why is it that people think they can speed thru Mayberry?? And why does everyone who gets caught doing so have to make things so difficult on poor bixbyAndy?? In this case the perp is a spoiled young man from an affluent family who arrogantly thinks his Daddy will come to his rescue. After Andy takes him fishing and to Sunday dinner at his house the young punk begins to soften a bit, especially after observing the sheriff do some parenting with Opie. There is some really funny stuff in this episode from Otis, and of course the father/son relationship between Andy & Opie is one of the foundations of the whole series. The arrogant speeder is portrayed by Bill Bixby, who would go on to sustained success in three different shows… My Favorite Martian, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, & The Incredible Hulk.

 

 

90     Andy and Opie – Bachelors       (S3E4)

Aunt Bea goes out of town to visit a relative. While she’s away Andy’s girlfriend Peggy McMillan steps up to take care of he & Opie. Peggy is a nurse just like a previous Andy paramour…Mary Simpson. Maybe Andy likes sponge baths or something. Anyway, Floyd gets into Andy’s head, convincing him that Peggy is trying to push her way into the Taylor household and trick Andy into proposing. Andy really seems to be afraid of commitment…perhaps because others are always trying to shove him into one. There’s a really sweet scene with Andy playing guitar & singing on the front porch with Peggy while Opie listens. We never saw Helen Crump do that. Poor little Opie seems to crave a mother’s attention. Darn shame Andy made him wait so long and passed up such splendid candidates.

 

 

89     Andy and Barney in the Big City (S2E25)

This episode is a rarity in that it is set almost entirely outside of Mayberry. Andy & Barney travel to Raleigh to try to get more funds for their bigcitydepartment. Barney proceeds to get involved in tracking down a jewel thief at the hotel. Of course being Barney he pegs the wrong guy (the house detective in fact) for the crime, and it’s up to Andy to set things right. Classic Barney. Hardcore purists might have an issue with the lack of Mayberry-ness, but I’m okay with it since it doesn’t occur often.

 

 

88     The Luck of Newton Munroe      (S5E29)

A fast-talking traveling salesman comes to Mayberry. Unfortunately everything he sells turns out to be a hunk of junk. Andy takes pity on the young ricklesman and asks him to paint his house, with hilarious results. The salesman is portrayed by comedian Don Rickles, who guest starred on a ton of TV shows in the 60’s, as well as doing movies like Kelly’s Heroes and several “Beach” films starring Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello, all while headlining shows in Vegas and hanging out with Frank Sinatra.

 

 

87     Class Reunion (S3E19)

Andy & Barney attend their 20 year high school reunion and Andy meets up with an old girlfriend. There is definite chemistry peggymccayandygbetween the two, but while Andy’s heart is in Mayberry his lady friend has left small town life in the rear view mirror, which proves to be an insurmountable obstacle. This episode aired in 1963, and it is indicated that Andy & Barney graduated in 1945, so the math doesn’t quite add up. Sharp eyed viewers of soap opera Days of Our Lives will recognize Andy’s gal pal as being portrayed by actress Peggy McCay. McCay has played matriarch Caroline Brady on DOOL for over three decades.

 

 

86     Barney Fife, Realtor (S5E16)

Barney takes on a second job as a real estate agent. He soon convinces Andy to look into purchasing a bigger house while concurrently selling his own. Opie hilariously spills the beans to prospective buyers about work that needs done on the Taylor homestead, because of course his Paw has taught him all about being honest. Similarly, the house that Andy is interested in has its own issues. At the end of the day everyone decides to stay put where they are, and Barney’s second career seems to end just as quickly as it began.

 

 

85     The Big House (S3E32)

Barney & Gomer are in charge of guarding two criminals while Andy is out catching the other two members of their gang. The twosome are inept on kennedyan individual basis, and together they are hysterically incompetent. The prisoners keep escaping, but Andy keeps bringing them back before they get too far. George Kennedy makes a brief appearance as a state police detective, four years before he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Cool Hand Luke.

 

 

84     Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bea  (S4E5)

Briscoe Darling becomes enamored of Aunt Bea, but when she resists his advances he kidnaps her. Andy comes up with the idea of Aunt Bea trying to force Briscoe to clean up his act and become more civilized. The ploy works, as he gets mad at Aunt Bea and promptly ends the “relationship”. This is the only time we see the Briscoes without Charlene.

 

 

83     Andy and the New Mayor  (S3E3)

Less than a year after the final appearance of Mayor Pike there’s a new head official in Mayberry. Mayor Roy Stoner is uptight & demanding, and he mayor12clashes with Andy because of the sheriff’s easygoing way of handling situations. In this case the mayor becomes angry when Andy temporarily releases a prisoner so that he can go tend to his farm, with the promise that he’ll return in three days. When the man doesn’t return on time Mayor Stoner goes in search of him, with the kind of hilarious conclusion only TAGS can provide.

 

 

82            Barney and Thelma Lou, Phfftt    (S4E30)

While giving Thelma Lou a ride to Mount Pilot Gomer lets slip an offhand comment that Barney made about having Thelma Lou “in my hip pocket”. Naturally this upsets Thelma Lou, who then decides to use clueless Gomer to make our favorite deputy jealous. Gomer enlists Andy’s help to extract himself from the situation, and as usual Sheriff Taylor straightens out the chaos. No Opie or Aunt Bea in this episode, but that’s okay.

 

 

81            Andy’s Rich Girlfriend (S3E2)

Andy Taylor had a few girlfriends in the first few seasons of TAGS, but by far my favorite is nurse Peggy McMillan. She was portrayed by actress joanna_moore_13Joanna Moore, who would go on to become the wife of Ryan O’Neal and the mother of Tatum O’Neal. In this episode we are introduced to Peggy as she & Andy go on a double date with Barney & Thelma Lou. When Andy finds out Peggy comes from a wealthy family Barney gets in his head and convinces him that Peggy is out of his league. Andy begins avoiding Peggy which leads to an argument. Thankfully the two eventually kiss & make up. Perhaps the relationship might have worked out if other people would’ve stopped sticking their nose where it didn’t belong.

 

 

80     Barney’s Sidecar       (S4E16)

Sensing a need for more patrols to catch speeders Barney buys a motorcycle…complete with sidecar…at an army surplus auction. Barney really gets sidecarinto it, even donning goggles & a leather jacket, but the townsfolk in Mayberry just laugh at him. He also overdoes it with the speed trap, pulling boxtrucks over for going only 5mph over the limit (flexibility they’ve always been given to get over a nearby hill), and ticks off everybody in town with his overzealous enthusiasm with his new toy. Andy cleverly figures out a way to convince Barney that the bike is an historic artifact and gets him to donate it to a museum.

 

 

79     The Mayberry Band (S3E8)

The Mayberry town band wants to go to Raleigh for a statewide competition. The only problem is they’re horrible. Mayor Stoner refuses to let the group participate and embarrass Mayberry, but with a little help from Freddy Fleet & His Band with a Beat Andy is able to convince the Mayor to fund the trip. Freddy Fleet was known as Bobby Fleet on two previous TAGS appearances, and writers affiliated with the show later admitted that the continuity error was simply a mistake. The character was portrayed by three different actors, adding to the confusion.

 

78     The Clubmen (S2E10)

Andy’s fishing buddy from Raleigh invites the sheriff up to the capitol city to hobnob with snooty members of The Esquire Club. Andy gets permission to bring Barney along. Unfortunately Barney tries a little too hard to make himself seem sophisticated, in the process coming across as a buffoon. A few days later Andy is extended an invitation for membership, but he politely turns it down when Barney is rejected. There is a really funny scene at the beginning when Andy catches Barney napping in the courthouse and Barney tries to play it off. Don Knotts always did some of his best acting with his expressive face and bulging eyes.

 

 

77     The Shoplifters          (S4E21)

When Ben Weaver reports that things have been coming up missing from his store Barney decides to investigate. In one hilarious scene Mr. Weaver shoplifterand Barney mistakenly hunt each other down late at night in the store while the security guard sleeps thru almost the whole thing. When that idea doesn’t work Barney decides to go undercover as a store mannequin, with hilarious results. In the end Barney does end up catching the perp…with an assist from Andy. A different, much younger, actor portrays Mr. Weaver due to the death of the performer who’d played the character in three previous episodes. A better writer would’ve specified the character here to be Ben Weaver Jr., but continuity wasn’t a strong suit of the folks in charge of TAGS.

 

 

76     Andy and Opie, Housekeepers (S1E23)

Aunt Bea jumps on Andy & Opie for being slobs, and then she is called way to help out a sick relative in Mt. Pilot for a few days. Andy & Opie are determined to keep the house tidy in Aunt Bea’s absence but fail miserably. They hurry to clean it up before she returns, but then Andy decides that Aunt Bea might feel unneeded so they mess it up again. However while the boys are on their way to pick up Aunt Bea at the bus station Clara Edwards (called Bertha Edwards in what is her inaugural appearance) decides to pop in and clean the house for them. When the Taylors return they’re all surprised at how clean the living room is, but Opie has enough time to mess up his room again and Andy trashes the kitchen to spare Aunt Bea’s feelings. When Aunt Bea says the house looked like a pigpen when she got home Miss Edwards is hilariously offended. Opie is adorable in this episode.

 

 

 

 

 

This seems like a good place for another break. Stay tuned.

Superfluous 7 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians

My man Michael Wilbon recently posted a video commentary…for no apparent reason…on comedythe PTI Facebook page about his Top 10 stand-up comics. Because Wilbon, as erudite as he seems on TV, is subconsciously a militant black man and a throwback 60’s radical his list was, shall we say, just a little bit prejudiced. It wasn’t too terrible I suppose, but it had Wanda Sykes for God’s sake, a woman who is only mildly amusing at her best, while leaving off 2 or 3 certified comedy legends. My dismay with this absurd display of racially biased poppycock has inspired me to create my own ranking. I have made a concerted effort to eschew the kind of poor taste & obvious sociopolitical slant shown by Wilbon, but to be fair we are all a product of our background, bound to be influenced by the time & place in which we were raised and the things to which we were or were not exposed. I’m about 15 years younger than Wilbon, was raised in small town WV as opposed to Chicago, and watched way too much TV as a kid. I am a child of the 80’s (with fond memories of the late 70’s) and became an adult in the 90’s. I do think my rankings are better & more reasonable than the list that motivated this effort, but others may disagree. So be it.


comedy2In pondering this idea I had a lot of names pop into my head. It became necessary to create parameters. The focus here is on stand-up comedy…just a guy (or lady) on stage with a microphone in front of a live audience. Many of the best comedians have gone on to star in TV series or become movie stars. That’s fine, but that’s not what this is about. Jimmy Fallon may have once done stand-up comedy, but in my mind he is an SNL alum who went on to do a few forgettable films and now hosts the Tonight Show. Same deal with David Letterman. To me he is a talk show host that has been a centerpiece of late night television for ¾ of my life. At any rate, even with those self-imposed boundaries the list was overflowing, so we will begin with some Honorable Mentions that didn’t quite make the cut for one reason or another.

 

Honorable Mention

Tim Allen
His stand-up routines landed him a successful sitcom which he parlayed into a mediocre film career, so I think of him primarily as a comedic actor.

Billy Crystal
I LOVE Crystal, but to me he is an actor & awards show host.

Bob Newhart
His standup career was before my time. I remember him as the star of two of TV’s more underappreciated sitcoms.

Don Rickles
He’s funny, but his career trajectory plateaued before I was born.

Johnny Carson & Jay Leno
I know them primarily as two long time hosts of the Tonight Show.

Bob Hope
An undisputed legend, but one whose career peaked long before I was born and who I fondly recall as hosting the occasional variety show special on TV.

Steve Martin
I realize he was a revolutionary stand-up comic in the 70’s, but I know him mainly as a film actor and for his numerous appearances on SNL.

Garry Shandling
Funny, but not quite elite. I recall him as a frequent guest host on the Tonight Show and remember his first sitcom on Showtime in the late 80’s.

Buddy Hackett
He was before my time. I remember him mostly for his guest appearances on Carson’s Tonight Show in the 1980’s.

Sam Kinison
Sadly Kinison was gone far too soon, killed by a teenage drunk driver at the age of 38. Kinison was obnoxious, controversial, & often blasphemous, but he was funny. It would have been really interesting to see how he might have evolved. Would he have softened with age?? Would he have become a caricature of himself, still trying to be the loud, abrasive rebel even as an elder statesman of comedy?? Or would he have just flamed out & faded away once his shtick started to grow old?? We’ll never know, and that’s too bad.

Steven Wright
Wright’s deadpan delivery is unmistakable yet kind of defines him as a one trick pony. Amusing in small doses, but there is a reason he never became a huge star.

Ron White
I gave this spot to White over Jeff Foxworthy because I think he is funnier. His humor seems kind of restricted to a specific southern demographic, which is fine by me but limits his star power and accessibility to the masses.

Gallagher
You know & love him as the prop comedian who busts watermelons with a sledgehammer. It’s a gimmick that has narrowly defined his career for four decades.

Andrew Dice Clay
He’s funny & memorable enough to get a mention, but just too vulgar to be ranked amongst the best.

Andy Kaufman
It is difficult to describe exactly what Andy Kaufman did on stage. He was more of a performance artist than a traditional standup comedian. It seemed as if he was trying to entertain himself more than anyone else, and if that meant offending, annoying, & confusing the audience then that was just dandy. Kaufman is another artist that we lost far too early, as he succumbed to lung cancer at age 35. I remember him mostly as Latka Gravis on the sitcom Taxi, a role that he allegedly despised.

Redd Foxx
To me he is iconic junk king Fred G. Sanford from the 70’s sitcom Sanford & Son. However, before that role he had a long & successful career as a crude & profane stand-up comic. That was in the 50’s & 60’s though…way way way before my time, and in an era when profanity was actually shocking instead of the accepted norm.

 

Okay, so now that the honorable mentions are out of the way it’s time to move to the main attraction. To be honest I wish more of these guys worked “clean”, but it’s rare to find a comedian who does that nowadays. We live in an era in which F Bombs and sexual humor sells, so that’s what many do. It’s not my preference, but for the most part I think my choices would still be funny if they took the road less traveled instead of conforming to low worldly standards. At any rate, sit down, enjoy a cold beverage, and maybe chuckle, chortle, guffaw, & giggle as I present…..

 

 

 

From the home office in Happy, TX…..

 

 

 

My Superfluous 7 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians:

 

 

 

7 Eddie Murphy / Richard Pryor
murphyY’all should know by now, there will be ties. These guys are legends, with Pryor being the trailblazer who heavily influenced Murphy. Pryor’s stand-up career was en fuego in the 1970’s when I was just a baby. By the time I got to the age where I was consciously making entertainment choices and discovering what I enjoy Pryor, like so many others, had segued into acting. It is really interesting that a vast majority of comedians cite Richard Pryor as a huge influence. He really did make it look easy. His comedy was edgy & vulgar, yet accessible to the masses. Perhaps one of the most regrettable byproducts of Pryor’s legacy is that so many comics believe that peppering their act with a plethora of F-Bombs & other profanities is hysterically funny. I suppose it was humorous in a shocking kind of way when he did it, but now it’s just derivative & tedious. Murphy’s career has been all over the place, with a prominent chunk of the early 80’s spent as a cast member on SNL followed by a three pryordecade movie career with some hits (48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America) and a lot of misses (The Golden Child, Vampire in Brooklyn, Pluto Nash, Norbitt). In between those gigs, for a brief time in the mid-80’s, he was a comedy rock star that did a few really good HBO specials that became big sellers on home video. Unfortunately Eddie Murphy seemed to buy into the whole movie star fantasy and has become more aloof & pretentious over the years.

 

6 Chris Rock / Dennis Miller
rockI don’t often agree with Rock’s politics, but there is no denying that he is an intelligent, thoughtful guy whose observational comedy is a cut above. Much of his humor has racial overtones, but I’ve rarely found it racist. It is more like a brutally honest, undeniably subjective worldview to which I can’t relate. In contrast, Miller’s philosophies & attitudes are much more in line with my own. He also is a smart & solicitous dude whose comedy was tinged with insightful commentary about life even before he became a regular guest on political talk shows. Miller doesn’t dumb down his comedy for the masses. You either get the odd analogies & obscure references he makes or you don’t, and he’s not going to slow down and draw a picture for you. Both Rock & Miller had notable runs on Saturday Night Live. Rock has gone on to be a run-of-the-mill movie star in mostly pedestrian films, millerwhile Miller has dabbled in the whole talk show host thing (I really wanted him to be the guy to replace Letterman), did a season in the booth on Monday Night Football (not a good fit), & in recent years has become bogged down as a political pundit. I’d love to see him get back into doing stand-up.

 

5 Jim Gaffigan / Bill Cosby
gaffiganOkay…let’s first address the elephant in the room. I am not here to judge what Cosby may or may not have done in his personal life. That’s not my place, and I think the damage that has been done to his legacy speaks for itself. Both of these men do basically work “clean”, which is good. The foundation of their humor is family, marriage, children, & relationships. They tell stories that many folks recognize from their own lives. It’s easygoing & affable. Their comedy isn’t meanspirited, edgy, or brash. Cosby, of course is…or was…a living legend that has done movies & TV shows and has generally been a part of the entertainment landscape for a half century. Gaffigan has been around for about a cosbydecade. He’s a soft-spoken, self-deprecating guy who likes to joke about being fat & lazy, comedy to which I can relate. Young comedians need to study these guys and understand that intelligent, relevant, witty comedy doesn’t need to be vulgar, obnoxious, or malevolent.

 

4 Frank Caliendo / Denis Leary
caliendoBy far my favorite kind of comedian is one who can do spot-on impressions. If I could ask God for any fun & frivolous talent I’d probably choose being able to do impressions over singing, dancing, or playing an instrument. Older generations might prefer Rich Little, but to be honest I was never that enamored with Little. Caliendo hasn’t become the sort of superstar that landed his own sitcom, but he’s done a wide variety of media appearances…MadTV, Fox NFL Sunday, & a ton of radio shows…and is a regular in Vegas. He does awesome impressions of folks like Al Pacino, Morgan Freeman, President George W. Bush, & Robin Williams, as well as a ton of sportscentric impersonations such as ESPN personalities Mel Kiper Jr., Adam Shefter, & Stephen A. Smith, former coaches John learyMadden & Jon Gruden, Charles Barkley, Jim Rome, and Bill Walton. I think Caliendo is brilliant. Leary has segued into acting now, but at one time in the early 90’s he was a chain smoking, fast talking, “angry” comedian…kind of a toned down Sam Kinison…and he was hilarious. His comedy album No Cure for Cancer is classic and helped make dreary days at a tedious job more tolerable for me in the mid-1990’s. Leary was a much better stand-up comic than he is an actor, and I hope he goes back to what he does best someday.

 

3 Jerry Seinfeld
Yes I am aware that Mr. Seinfeld starred in a highly rated sitcom. As a matter of fact I chose Seinfeld as my favorite TV show of all time just a few years ago. However, that show was based, atleast partly, on the observational comedy of its star. Seinfeld was a celebrated comedian throughout the 1980’s, with his casual, conversational style playing really well on television in appearances with Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Seinfeld comes across as a kind of everyman, a guy it’d be fun to have lunch with or go on a road trip. Much like the beloved television show his standup comedy is about the trivialities, conundrums, seinfeldfrustrations, & contradictions of daily life. In contrast to guys like Kinison or Leary he isn’t particularly angry, and unlike Pryor, Murphy, or Dice he is far from profane. I would describe Seinfeld as perpetually bemused by the fickle nature of humanity. People like him just have a whole different way of looking at the world. They see things that most people overlook…and then they tell funny stories & jokes about what they perceive. Thankfully that perception is often quite entertaining. I always thought Seinfeld would end up hosting a late night show, but the stardom he achieved with his sitcom skyrocketed him past that. He doesn’t have to work that hard or often now. He hosts an amusing talk show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which you can find online, and thankfully he has gone back to doing standup. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to see him perform live.

 

2 Robin Williams
Robin Williams was like Jerry Seinfeld on cocaine. Literally. Sadly we lost Williams last year, but his legacy is rock solid. He, of course, became well-known in the early 80’s on the sitcom Mork & Mindy, and after that starred in a plethora of mostly good films. But Williams began as a standup comedian and never completely left it behind. On stage he did it all…jokes, stories, improv, pratfalls, impressions, observation. It is hard to put him in a box and categorize his williamscomedy. Robin Williams was manic, silly, intelligent, & creative. He was brilliant. His energy was unmatched. He always made me laugh. And not just a light snicker. I’m talking about wall shaking, tears in my eyes laughter that made others think I’d lost my mind. Hindsight informs us that the energy level was often drug induced, and sadly we also know that the comedy that made us laugh hid pain & depression that would ultimately lead to suicide. I don’t really know what to say about all of that. Unfortunately the tragic ending will likely forever alter the opinions of many about Robin Williams. I understand that, but for the purposes of this exercise choose to remember the good times.

 

1 George Carlin
George Carlin had a career unlike any other. He began doing standup in the 60’s and was still working nearly 50 years later. He dabbled a little bit in television & movies, but pretty much stuck to being a standup comedian. His observational comedy was a bit more acerbic, and many might say that in later years he bordered on meanspirited & angry. Carlin was a product of the counterculture 60’s and always had a bit of that “I’m smarter than you” attitude. In the 70’s he came up with his well-known routine The 7 Words You Can Never Say on Television, which seems a bit quaint now. I won’t repeat any of the words, but I will say that, as carlinopposed to four decades ago, I think I’ve heard atleast 3 or 4 of the forbidden words on network TV just this week. I didn’t really discover Carlin until the 80’s when he had several specials on HBO. By then he’d started doing a lot more sociopolitical commentary, much of it the complete opposite of my own worldview. However, I can usually overlook such disagreements and still find someone funny. While Jerry Seinfeld seems amused by humanity’s shortcomings they seemed to really tick George Carlin off. Sometimes this was hilarious, sometimes it wasn’t. The stuff I preferred from Carlin were his observations about language. He would talk about how language had evolved, mostly due to political correctness. Battle fatigue has become PTSD. Used cars are now pre-owned. Stewardesses are now flight attendants. Deaf people are hearing impaired & a person isn’t blind but has a visual impairment. I could go on but you get the point. Carlin was at his best when he was dissecting the idiocy of political correctness, something it seems like he hated as much as I do. That alone vaults him to the top of this list, despite everything he believed in that I disagree with.